Are we all about to be buried under a deluge of content-marketing crap? Maybe. That prediction seemed credible as I read through dozens of the marketing predictions, trends, forecasts that were posted at the end of 2012.
In my opinion, freelance providers of writing, photography, videography, or design services should pay attention to marketing-communications trends simply because so many clients expect us to. It’s particularly enlightening to search out insights, statistics, and forecasts from multiple sources with different points of view. The more you read, the more you see how the backgrounds and business biases of different sources affect what they are predicting.
Some trends that were mentioned repeatedly for 2013 included the continued growth of content marketing, visual communications, automated marketing software, and “big data.” Plus, now that so many of us repeatedly consult our smartphones everywhere we go, companies will focus on using mobile marketing in a more strategic and integrated way.
Below are a few specific trends and ideas that might help you identify where new opportunities for freelance services might arise this year.
From IDG Enterprise
IDG Enterprise is a communications company that serves the information needs of the IT and security-focused audiences that read Computerworld, Infoworld, Network World, CIO, and other IDG brands. In 2012, they conducted a survey with the 30,000+ members of the B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn. The survey findings are based on the 740 responses they received over the three-week survey period. The report is entitled “B2B Content Marketing Trends.”
- Content marketing is expanding dramatically in terms of tactics, forms, and volume of content; 84 percent of marketers say they plan to increase content production over the next 12 months. This includes 30 percent who plan to significantly increase content production.
- Infographics is the fastest-growing format used by the IDG survey respondents, rising from 28 percent in 2011 to 43 percent in the 2012 study.
- About one in three companies relies on external agencies and freelancers to create content.
- The most outsourced form of content production is videos (33 percent), followed by white papers/e-books (32 percent) and case studies (26 percent).
From the Content Marketing Institute
Content Marketing Institute (CMI) is a leading content marketing and education organization that teaches enterprise brands how to attract and retain customers through compelling, multi-channel storytelling. In August, 2012, they teamed up with up with the MarketingProfs online community to electronically mail a survey to a sample of B2B marketers who are members or subscribers of MarketingProfs and Content Marketing Institute. The survey findings are based on responses from 1416 North American companies. These statistics come from the report entitled “B2B Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends: North America.”
- More than half (54 percent) of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing budgets over the next 12 months. This includes 9 percent who say they will significantly increase their spending.
- On average, 44 percent of companies outsource B2B content creation. B2B marketers still use a combination of insourcing and outsourcing to create content, but they are outsourcing it less frequently. The number of B2B marketers creating content in-house has risen by 18 percentage points.
- Producing enough content is the number-one challenge faced by B2B content marketers (64 percent), followed by producing the kind of content that engages (52 percent) and producing a variety of content (45 percent).
- The use of video is rising. From 2011 to 2012, the number of companies using videos as part of their content marketing programs jumped from 52 percent to 70 percent.
Hubspot sells all-in-one marketing software designed to make it easier for companies to get found online, convert leads into customers, and measure and analyze the results. They are masters at content marketing and have produced dozens of immensely helpful e-books and blog posts about website design, e-mail marketing, SEO, and how to get the most from various social-media networks.
These three trends were featured in Hubspot’s e-book “20 Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2013 and Beyond” by Jessica Meher.
- Real-time marketing is in. Marketers will move away from short-lived, themed “campaigns” and use more real-time events and triggers based on inbound marketing activity. According to best-selling author David Meerman Scott, “In 2013, buyers instantly engage with brands on their websites, talk back via social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and follow breaking news in the markets in which they are interested.” As a marketer, “Success comes from engaging your buyers when they’re ready—not when it’s convenient for you.”
- Content crowdsourcing will grow. Now that marketers have used social media platforms to build networks of fans and followers, Hubspot believes that marketers will leverage crowd creativity to build interesting and viral pieces of content.
- A picture is worth a thousand words. So that we all can absorb more information in less time, communications will continue to become more visual and less text-based. A lot of the content developed in 2013 will include infographics, photos, picture boards, and video.
From CEB Blog
The CEB (Corporate Executive Board) is a business advisory group that combines the best practices of thousands of member companies with advanced research methodologies and “human capital analytics” to equip senior leaders and their teams with actionable solutions for transforming operations.
In a blog post entitled “10 Marketing Trends for 2013 You Haven’t Heard,” managing director Patrick Spenner made these predictions:
- Content marketing will experience a sophomore-year slump. “The shine will come off content marketing in some circles. Not because it inherently lacks merit, but because there will be execution problems.” He suggests that jump-on-the-bandwagon adopters of content marketing may lack some of the factors needed to make content-marketing successful: mandate, resources, energy, and savvy.
- Countless, limp branded social efforts will be abandoned, countless more will be launched: Spenner contends that many brands and products don’t need a Facebook page, YouTube channel or LinkedIn group and many brand social executions have become lifeless zombies.
From Velocity Partners
Velocity Partners is a U.K.-based B2B content-marketing agency. On Slideshare, they published a presentation entitled: “Crap: Why the Single Biggest Threat to Content Marketing is Content Marketing.”
They predict that the growth of content marketing means that “We’re all about to be buried in crap” including:
- “Me-too” blog posts
- Three-sentence ideas pumped up into 36-page e-books
- Video interviews that might as well be subtitled “yadda-yadda-yadda.”
- Microsites full of the obvious disguised as the profound.
As we get deluged with crappy content, Velocity predicts that “the people we’re marketing to will start to raise their barriers again.” So, marketers will experience diminishing returns from their content marketing efforts. Velocity believes that “The winners in the Post-Deluge era will be the companies that build something precious.”
Here’s what I think: Anyone who opens e-newsletters or browses online news feeds can see how much repetitious, formulaic crap content is being produced. And yes, we are starting to tune a lot of it out.
Personally, I hope companies will think twice before churning out more cheaply produced content just for the sake of trying to generate “enough” content. I admire agencies that are actively recruiting the most talented, tech-savvy creative pros they can find.
In 2013, I predict that the quality expectations for all forms of content will rise. And, companies who aren’t afraid to innovate in the production of original, visually appealing, and useful content will succeed in getting noticed.
For proof, check out how the people are reacting to BMW’s amazing interactive “Window into the Near Future.”